Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Skincare Routine (also known as the worlds longest post on a beauty routine)

One of the things that I've struggled with in my mid to late twenties was terrible skin and adult acne that was a major source of frustration. I'm not sure if it's environmental or hormonal or something else but around the age of 24 I started breaking out. This was a shock to me because I had previously had perfect skin. At first I thought it would go away on it's own but it didn't and five years later my skin was a downright mess. It was bad enough that people actually stopped to comment on how rough it was looking and try to offer unsolicited advice. I wore makeup more often than not. Of course I made the problem worse by picking at everything, which left a lot of Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (or PIH, the little red dots after you get a blemish that takes forever to go away)

One of my goals this year was to figure this out once and for all. I started researching what I needed to do to prevent more breakouts and heal up the PIH. I wanted to take both an internal (Diet or Nutrition) and external (Lotions and Potions) approach to the problem, get professional help from a dermatologist, and start working it out so I could enter my thirties with skin I was happy with.

Over the last six or eight months I've been able to start turning my skin around. I'm not 100% happy with it - I don't have the skin I had when I was 22 and never had a breakout, but I can tell that I'm moving in the right direction, mostly because I don't have any new breakouts and some of the redness and PIH is starting to heal up. I wish I had a before picture because quite frankly the most current picture that I took looks like it could pass as a before picture and I don't have a single picture on this blog where I'm not wearing makeup.

I took this picture two weeks ago right after washing my face and putting on moisturizer. It's nothing to write home about but it's honest and it's what I'm working with right now - a ton of scarring, uneven skin tone, but great hair and decent bone structure. (Count your blessings, right?). I'm also thankful that there isn't a single new blemish in this picture.

IMG_9145


Turning my skin around actually has been a cumulative effort on many different parts. I've switched  (for the most part) from Western products to products from Korea and Japan, I've changed the supplements I'm taking, and I've included some prescription treatments in my routine. I just want to note that I do this under the care of a dermatologist. While what I use and do may be a great starting point it may be useful for you to see one if you need to go beyond the basics. There are some great services that you can find locally and internet services, similar to something like PocketDerm, to help you out.

Internal Approach


_MG_9500

When I started trying to heal my skin up I was already taking a basic multivitamin, Vitamin D, and Zinc for general reasons not related to skincare. Zinc is helpful for the skin but clearly was not quite enough because I needed to keep working on it.

When I started thinking about healing up my skin the first research I looked at pointed towards dietary and nutritional deficiencies. After reading a significant amount of information I started taking Omega-3s and Vitamin C. The Omega-3's significantly calmed down any cystic acne I had in about four weeks - I also took Vitamin C to help with absorption, something a doctor had recommended I take any vitamin with years ago.

After reading a few studies (all of which I didn't save or bookmark so I can't reference them here because I didn't think I would ever write a post like this!) that were similar to this one, The Relationship of Diet and Acne, published in Dermato-endocrinology I decided to add Vitamin A to my diet as well. Please note that you have to be careful when you take Vitamin A because there are some health risks associated with too much Vitamin A. That's when I really saw a change - within a few weeks I had only one or two new blemishes, and all were very small. The PIH wasn't healing up yet but I was definitely on my way!

Because I wanted to make sure I was on the right track and getting my doses of vitamins correct (as well as see if there was anything else I should try - more on that later) I did go see a dermatologist. We had a very comprehensive conversation about everything I had tried and what worked and what didn't as well as my long term goals for my skin and when we went through the supplements and results I had gotten from them she encouraged me to continue my Vitamin A because what I was taking was a very manageable and low dose with great effects. I very much encourage you to speak to a doctor or dermatologist about your supplements as well as any other concerns you have!

External Approach

The second thing that I did was work on my skincare routine. I did this concurrently with the Vitamins but to different aims. The vitamins are preventative, the skincare routine is restorative.

Before I settled into this routine, I had a really hard time sticking to anything because nothing seemed to work. I gave it the obligatory two to three weeks and then just get exasperated and switch products. So, imagine my surprise when I finally found something that worked. I was shopping at my local Asian Grocery Store in the beauty aisle and a woman had the audacity to pull me aside and tell me that my skin looked "troubled" (her words...not mine). She then to tell me exactly what to do and pull products down and hand them to me. She said to stop everything I was using at home, use only those things, and see what happens. What did I have to lose (except all the money I had sunk into skincare products, hah!)?

Anyways, I got everything she suggested and viola, a new skincare routine was born. Over the last few months I've refined it to the essentials. I do use sheet masks, essences, sleeping packs and all sorts of other fun goodies now but these are the basics that are working to heal up all the PIH.

Just in case you are wondering where to buy this stuff I've made all of the titles of products clickable into online stores that sell them. I've never actually purchased from many of these stores - I buy locally since it's possible where I live due to the large Asian population. The only thing I buy online is the Japanese sunscreen (I've marked it with a *) so I have had good results buying at the link I put up.


_MG_9501

Isa Knox is the original skin care brand that I started with. I've since branched out but I keep using this foam cleanser for two reasons - it is a great cleanser and it never seems to run out. One of the things I watch for with cleansers is my skin feeling "tight" afterwards but it never seems to happen with the Isa Knox cleanser. Skin that feels tight after washing is skin that has a damaged moisture barrier and that's something that's really important to maintain. (More science heavy info on that here. For things put into layman's terms try this reddit post.)

I had a tough time finding a place to buy this online - luckily I am able to purchase this locally since the Asian Grocery Store stocks it.

Other Reviews (It's hard to find other mentions and reviews for this product!): 
 - Glossy Soiree mentions this in her skincare routine

Step 2: Toner - Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner

(See picture in step one)

This is one of the biggest flips from my previous skin care routine. Western toners are generally astringent. Toners in Asian skincare lines are generally moisturizing. I settled on this toner after reading rave reviews from multiple sources and then finally buying a bottle myself and trying it out. Seriously, this stuff is amazing! The Aloe toner is soothing, calming and involves a mild BHA (In this product it is salicylic acid) in it that helps prevent acne and protect the skin's moisture barrier.

Other Reviews:
- For more information there's a great review of this toner over at Skin & Tonics.
- Pheomelanin Sufficent reviews it on her blog, too. 
- Clelobeau reviews the entire Benton Aloe set here.

Step 3: Prescriptions - Tretinoin Retin-A Cream and Clindamycin Phosphate Topical Gel

_MG_9503


I started using these products after my vitamins and switched skincare routine were already well on their way to working so they've been added bonuses. Both of these things were added after a consultation with my dermatologist. She was quite impressed with what I was already doing but I went to her specifically to help me with the Post-Inflamitory Hyper-pigmentation and to double check and make sure that what I was doing was medically sound. I was very specific with what I wanted - no laser treatments, no birth control pills, and nothing that needed to be taken orally. That pretty much left her with topical options only and we discussed adding a Retin-A to help my skin turn over and get the scarring gone.

Starting a Retin has typically been pretty rough. The first month was pretty awful. I went in to buy a bronzer at Sephora about two weeks after I started and had to explain to the woman who I was working with that I had just started a Retin. "Poor thing..." she cooed and then gently took all my makeup off and re-applied it to hide the flaking red peeling grossness of it. I eventually started buffering my Retin with one of my lotions (read on to the next category) because I couldn't spread it evenly and it showed by leaving flaky patches in the places where it was first applied and that helped a lot.

My skin is just starting to regulate after using this though I still am getting some Retin induced issues of redness and tiny closed pores around my nose and mouth. Also, I'm pretty sporadic with my use of this - I use it about every three and often won't use it if know my face is going to be on someone else's camera or makeup chair in the next two days because I just don't want that showing up on camera. Oh, vanity. This is not the recommended use but I just can't bring myself to power through it even if it does drag out the time it takes for my skin to regulate.

The other prescription that she gave me is the Clindamycin. When you google this you find out that it has many different uses including, but certainly not limited to, acne. I use this as a spot treatment or something that I put where my riding helmet touches my forehead after an especially sweaty ride or where my close fitting athletic sunglasses were after cycling. I use this less and less because I don't seem to need it as much as my skin clears up.

If you are interested in these two things you will need to go see your dermatologist. I know there are over the counter products with Retin in it but I have no experience with them.

Step 4: Moisturizer -  The Face Shop Chia Seed Water 100 and Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream

_MG_9502

I have two different moisturizers because I have one for the day and one for the night. I use The Face Shop Chia Seed Water 100 moisturizer because it's very neutral. I feel like I get moisturized but not slathered in lotion when I use it, it sinks in in about five minutes, and best of all (and probably not correctly) I use it to buffer my Retin. It's nothing super fancy, it's slightly expensive for what you get, but it seems to work well. If anything I'd keep it around to buffer the Retin even if I find a better morning lotion.

Other Reviews:

- CityGirl Searching reviews the entire Chia Seed Line on her blog.
- Confessions of a Skin Care Junkie also reviewed the entire line. 

I very much love the Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream. It has some fantastic restoring properties and I've seen a reduction in the PIH since I've started using it. Even though I really, really like the healing and restorative benefits I see with the Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream it's simply too heavy to use in the morning. It's almost like a sleeping pack. This means I put it on right before I go to bed and wake up to lovely skin. I will probably continue using this as my night cream and purchase another one when the tube runs out.

Other Reviews: 
- Here's another fantastic Skin & Tonics review of the Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream.
- The Wanderlust Project reviews it here (with the old packaging in the picture).
- Kalyn Lord also reviews it (with the old packaging.)

Step 5 - Sunscreen - The Face Shop Natural AQ Sun Baby Mild Sun Lotion and Hada - Labo UV SPF50+ PA++++ UV Creamy Gel*

_MG_9504

Right now applying sunscreen is my favorite part of my beauty routine. Why? Because I'm obsessed with the way The Face Shop Natural Beauty AQ Sun Baby Sun Lotion smells. The Baby Sun Lotion has a summery, warm smell to it that reminds me of being a kid and playing outside slathered in sunscreen. It does apply very thick but it soaks in without any shine and makes a pretty good makeup primer. The other thing I love about it is that it seems to let my skin breathe and it stays oh despite the heat so when I'm running around I'm not worrying about anything sliding down my face. 

This was the first daily sunscreen I started using - I was previously only applying sunscreen when I was going to be outside for athletic events or an extended period of time but I wanted to start wearing a daily sunscreen because I learned that UV Rays can make hyper-pigmentation last longer (this is only a link to the abstract - this one you do have to pay for or beg a student friend to email to you). Decreasing redness and PIH is a major goal of mine so a sunscreen is key. I was recommended this one because my skin is easily irritated and needed something low key to start out with. It's still my go-to sunscreen when I know I'm not going to be outside for hours and hours, just doing regular things. It has a low SPF and is only PA++ which is a drawback but it's still my favorite product in the routine. 

I would post links to other reviews here...but I can't find any!

I'll keep using the Baby Mild Sun Lotion because I love how it smells and makes my makeup look but I've started to sub in the Hada-Labo UV SPF 50+ PA++++ for days where I'll be outside more or while I'm doing outside activities. I really wanted to have something with a higher SPF and after reading Skin & Tonic's review of this product I purchased  it to try out. I've been pretty pleased with it. It goes on and is completely undetectable, and smells like standard sunscreen for a minute or two before the smell dissipates. My bottle is a little runnier than I anticipated but it spreads easily and makeup goes on just fine on top of it. When I'm out I'll definitely re-purchase and right now I keep a bottle in the bag I take my riding clothes to and from the barn so I can remember to apply it right before riding.

Other Reviews:
- Beauty Box Online lines up quite a few Japanese sunscreens and does quick reviews on them and includes the Hada-Labo sunscreen. 

Step 6 - Spot Treatment - Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream and Boscia B.B. Cream SPF 27 PA++

_MG_9507

Since I've managed to clear up most new acne my main goal is to heal up the PIH. To do this I regularly wear a B.B. cream. This B.B. cream is self adjusting, which means that it goes on somewhat sheer. It does a great job of hiding my uneven skin tone and minor problem areas or faded PIH but any major trouble spots show through the sheerness and I have to add a concealer on top or use my regular foundation in place of this if I'm being photographed. I do love how moisturizing this B.B. cream is but the color does turn out a little orange on my pale skin at first. After extended wear and some blush it settles in and looks fine. It doesn't have the staying power of my foundation but it is fine for every day use. For those of you who are used to classic Asian B.B. creams this might not be the product for you but for those of you who are switching from a Western foundation to something a little lighter and more nourishing this might be your ticket. I wear this almost every day, at the very least around my nose and mouth where my most problematic areas have been even if I'm not wearing anything more than eyeliner or mascara.

Other Reviews:
- Musings of Muse reviews the B.B. Cream from Boscia on her blog.
- Beauty Junkies Unite also reviews the B.B. Cream.  

The second thing that I use for spot treatment is Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream. I use this as a spot treatment, or should I say used this as a spot treatment. I rarely break out now so I don't have as much to use this on. I do still use it on minor scrapes and cuts though, once I'm past the point of needing to use an antibiotic on them, to help aid in healing them up without scarring. I read about someone doing this on a message board and thought it was a great idea. I wanted to test this out so I applied the Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream to one half of an abrasion I had but not to the other half and there was a noticeable difference in the healing time. This is, of course, purely anecdotal but since I'm sitting around with a 3/4 full tube of it that hardly goes on my face I don't mind using it on other things that may need to heal up as well. I felt it was worth a mention because I'm pretty satisfied with what it's been able to do for acne in the past.

Other Reviews: 
- There are a ton of reviews for this product all over the internet including this one from Skin & Tonic.

(美容护肤)

2 comments:

  1. Elizabeth,
    I totally feel your pain. I have been dealing with horrible cystic acne around my jaw/neck/chin so I know my acne is hormonal related. I used to not have any acne until I turned 17 and then I had maybe a spot or two around my chin. It got worse at times later on and so I ended up using benzoyl peroxide which seemed to work but made my skin dry. Fast forward... a few years ago I started birth control (not for my skin) which didn't clear my skin like it does for some people, so I decided to start taking opti-zinc supplement. It didn't start working until I took at least 60mg a day, sometimes 90mg. Last September I decided to stop taking birth control because it caused me several bad side effects and it wasn't worth it to me anymore. A few months after stopping bcp, I had the worst breakout of my life! I have tried all sorts of supplements, some of them I swear made it worse. I was on DIM, Estroblock, Vitex, multi vitamins, omega 3 oil, vitamin D3, zinc... Finally stopped taking Estroblock and Vitex because I think it made it worse. Anyway...I decided to cave and just start using benzoyl peroxide again. I only use it on the areas where I break out the most which is on my chin/jaw. I also put a very thick moisturizer (Bioactive Skincare Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream) AND jojoba oil underneath the BP. Before applying all that, I use a cream BP face wash (PanOxyl 4% cream wash) only on my chin area. Anyway, after starting this little routine, I've been very clear. I had an initial breakout when I started this little routine, but now it's very clear. Time will tell if this continues to work. Acne is SO frustrating! I feel like I've tried everything. Oh, it might also be worth mentioning that I take a good probiotic every evening and every morning (Jarro-Dophilus+EPS) when I wake up. I know probiotics help, especially seemed to help forehead acne when I take it regularly. I know we will both figure this out! Sorry for such a long winded post!! But I definitely can relate! Lots of luck to you! Looks like you are on the right track to clear skin! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey,

    I have really bad skin too, but I found putting stuff on my face actually makes it worse. So it's literally just soap for me, and I NEVER wear make up either. I seem to have the clearest complexion of anyone I know and I have eczema

    ReplyDelete

AddThis